ArticleCity.comArticle Categories A Brief History of Your Bra Store

A Brief History of Your Bra Store

Photo from Burst

Originally Posted On:


Many women cannot get by without a well fitting bra. Women with a small bust size can shop at a mall store, but sometimes want something more well made. Yet, spending $100 or more on a bra is not possible for everyone.


An online bra store in Canada is working to help independent bra stores sell their slow moving stock. As a result, they are able to connect customers to premium bras at sale prices.


Your Bra Store’s mission is to help independent bra stores sell more bras.


Unlike most bra stores who offer an array of products, and knowledge, Your Bra Store focuses on finding premium bras at sale prices. There is no bra fitting advice. There are a few other products on their site, but 95% of products are bras. Their focus is on one thing: bras.


Started in 2016, the idea for Your Bra Store came after spending a few years as a consultant to a bra store.


“I admit I was fairly ignorant to the machinations of the bra industry. When I came in to help stabilize a small store that was having some challenges, I was quite surprised at what I found.”


What was found was a unique industry. “I discovered that bras are a unique industry, probably unlike most other industries. First of all, there are three kinds of bra eco-systems: the mall bra (Victoria’s Secret, La Vie en Rose). The direct to consumer bra (KnixThird Love, Change). And then the premium bras (EmpreintePrima Donna, Elomi, Marie Jo, Simone Perele, etc).”


The unique part of premium bras is that they are almost exclusively sold in small, independent bra stores. You might find some brands in some larger department stores. The Bay carries Chantelle, Wacoal, but most premium bras sell in independent bra stores.


Research by Your Bra Store shows only 1 of the top 5 brands sold in independent bra stores sells at a large retailer. Of the top 20, eight sell in large retailers. Twelve of the top twenty are only available in independent bra fitting stores.


“When I started going through the layers of the business I was floored when I saw their inventory.”


It turns out that for bra stores to be effective at serving their market (ie: being as inclusive as possible) requires them to buy a lot of inventory. At a rough number, there are about 170 different bra sizes. From a 28AA up to a 46K, there are lots of sizes tucked in there. Why? Because our bodies are so different!


“If a store wants to serve most of the clients that come to their store, they have to carry an incredible amount of stock. Not only are there about 170 different sizes, there are also types of bras (plunge, full cup, demi, strapless, etc). There are different colors (beige, red, black, blue). Different brands. It’s insane. What’s the math there? If you want to carry one of each bra size, in five different types, in two colors, and from only two brands? That’s 170 x 5 x 2 x 2  =  3400 bras!”


3400 bras, yet all you have for each customer are two bras in each type, in two colors. That’s not enough.


“Then I broke down the expense. I did an analysis. A store carrying brands like Empreinte, Prima Donna, Marie Jo, Simone Perele, Elomi, Panache, Chantelle, and such, their average cost per bra is about $55. So a basic store, with only those 3400 bras, has an initial investment of $187,000! That’s a lot of money.”


This train of thought did not stop there. “I realized that across Canada there are all these little bra stores everywhere. All run by female entrepreneurs, with a lot of money tied up in bra inventory to serve their community, but not much more reach.”


With the thinking cap still on and late nights with a pencil, they kept breaking down the industry a little bit at a time.


“I started looking at the web presence of these stores. The store I worked with was a lovely lady who had excellent bra fitting skills, great customer service and a great team. But no IT skills. As I kept digging and meeting other store owners, I continued to find the commonality; stores run by passionate women, mostly in business well over 10 years, and a general mis-trust of ecommerce and even of their own POS systems!”


A main reason bra stores are reluctant to embrace ecommerce is because most of them believe bras should not be sold online. Which makes sense. Their business messaging has been that most women wear the wrong size bra and you need a fitting. Selling bras online without people trying them on is the antithesis of what they stood for.


Yet, bra stores face the same challenges other retailers face, the so-called “retail-apocalypse”. Their expenses are going up. Wages going up. The cost of leasing a space, up. The cost of renovating their space, up. Costs of goods, up. But their sales were slowing down and the customer was becoming more demanding!


In the past bra retailers rarely gave refunds or even took items back. Now they are confronted with customers who want to return their bras. Don’t take the return and risk online scorn. A negative review is a blow to their online reputation, further suppressing sales.


Even the stores that were branching out online were not having much success. “Opening an ecommerce store is relatively easy. Having people find it is very hard. We did the research, we call this the problem of “low visibility”. If we take out the top 5 bra stores in Canada in terms of site traffic, the average bra store gets 88 people a month! What’s more, most of their online customers were the same as their in-store customers. Retailers found themselves increasing their work-load and expenses to serve the same customers.”


With all these changes going on, bra stores continue to carry lots of inventory. With so many existential threats percolating, that was all money at risk!


“So this is where I came up with Your Bra Store. What if I could go to the retailer and say, “hey, I know you have all these bras here that have been sitting. Why don’t we try to move your older merchandise to free up that money? I will take care of the ecommerce, the IT, the SEO and I’ll also take care of the customer side of things”. The retailer didn’t have to worry about customer interactions, complaints, returns, anything. My goal was to make it as easy as possible for them. I would be their ecommerce site (or an auxiliary site to their own) and at the same time remove all the parts of ecommerce that drives retailers crazy. Setup, web maintenance, customer service, traffic growth, etc.”


“The stores were very receptive when I went out to discuss with them, but the real challenge was, how do we track all this? I wanted inventory accuracy because I don’t want to sell items to customers that are not in stock. But the store didn’t want to email me every time they sold a bra, and I got that. So that’s when the rubber hit the road. I had to invest in developing a platform to allow stores to connect with my site.”


Your Bra Store now has a proprietary inventory management platform. Stores using ShopifyLightSpeed, or Smart Vendor can connect to their inventory software. The system will automatically update any changes to inventory quantities across marketplaces.


“Developing the platform really changed the game for us. All of a sudden, we could easily connect to stores in a no-risk method. Our platform doesn’t do anything other than read inventory totals every 3 to 5 minutes and update any changes. It can’t affect anything inside the retailers’ system. It is a simple query based on SKU numbers matched with inventory totals and done.”


Five years later Your Bra Store is still growing. The pandemic forced them to slow down a bit, “I love to visit stores in person. I don’t really think there is another way to do business. I want them to see my face. I want them to know that we are in this together. I understand the challenges of running a retail store, and that all my efforts are to support them and make things easy. When the retailer works with us, we market their bras under the Your Bra Store banner. When a bra sells, the retailer just pops the bra in the mail. Done! They get paid. We call our process, “sell and forget”. We offer the customer returns, but we pay for those. We don’t bother the retailer at all!”


Your Bra Store now has a development team in Asia, “Last year we built the Bra Directory which is a list of all Canadian independent bra stores. You can go on there and type in your postal code and find stores within a geographic range you set. We built this because our goal is to support these small bra stores. It also has charts, a calculator, and blog posts about things we learn and discover working with bra stores.”


They work with a girl in the US who writes their product descriptions. “Each product description is unique, we do not copy and paste descriptions. This distinguishes us from other retailers who all have the same description for the same product.”


They work with another girl in South America who uploads all the data they receive. “For too many years I was the bottle-neck of the company. When a store shares 300 bras with us, it takes a long time to upload them! Now, when I meet stores and they share their product information with me, we can get them uploaded quickly and start making sales faster.”


Your Bra Store likes to point out that their clients are the bra stores. By focusing on serving the bra stores, the result is the customer gets incredible bras at incredible prices.


While most stores focus on image, knowledge, new products, and so forth, Your Bra Store only focuses on getting the best bras at the best prices. “We believe that our products at those prices are substantive enough for us. We are not out there to be the bra company on the cover of Vogue. We want to keep our mission and our process simple. We want people to know that we are the spot for amazing bras at great prices. You’ll always get an authentic, new, unworn bra from us. We think that’s enough. We think that is a fair value proposition for everyone involved, the customer and the store. There is an old saying, “they who hold much, squeeze little”.


We believe in a narrow value proposition for our clients and our customers that we can repeat over and over and over.”

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.